Retention of EU targeted sanctions on Robert Mugabe's mob – a very progressive move

OPINION – IT would be uncharitable not to applaud the European Union (EU) for deciding to retain the visa and financial sanctions against Robert Mugabe and his 200 listed cronies. Without sanctions, it could be a blood bath in Zimbabwe.

Considering the fact that Zanu-pf had mobilised and co-ordinated a major international offensive against the travel bans spearheaded by Mugabe’s admirer and comrade in arms, Jacob Zuma leader of the African National Congress of South Africa, it was a great relief to learn that the EU had decided to keep the restrictions in place.

Suggestions by some writers that there is treachery or a conspiracy in calling for targeted sanctions only betrays their limited grasp of the sanctity of democratic values which are daily trampled upon by Robert Mugabe as victims of politically-motivated violence are arrested while the perpetrators are given police protection.

It might not be their fault that they don’t view good political governance with an uncontaminated perspective because they have been brainwashed by jingles and Zanu-pf’s re-education.

To some people, political murders and disappearances like that of the Gokwe7 don’t seem to matter as long as they have or are related to someone with a seized farm where nothing of value is taking place except weekend braais and congratulating each other over looted property while the country is staring famine in the face.

The European Union’s and various western countries have democratic and social values as well as fundamental rights which inspire those opposed to Mugabe’s dictatorship. These can be summed-up as political values and rights such as equality and non-discrimination based on colour, beliefs, religion, sexuality and gender.

Peaceful democratic change of government and constitutionalism, the rule of law, free speech, free press, justice and the separation of powers are some of the values. Respect for human rights such the right to life, to education, to negotiate and conclude collective bargaining agreements and so on are also enshrined. Of course there is no paradise on earth, but the EU and indeed Western countries continue to support Zimbabweans by giving humanitarian assistance through non-governmental organisations a move which irks Mugabe.

The decision by the EU not to be swayed by Jacob Zuma and Zanu-pf’s lobbyists is laudable and politically significant given Mugabe’s high hopes which were based on false premises of redundant colonial rhetoric. It is ironic that some SADC leaders invested so much faith in one of theirs who is adversely affecting their countries with an influx of refugees but would like him to be rewarded with visas to conduct yet more ‘voyages of discovery’ like Vasco da Gama.

Mugabe’s fear of regime change which is a euphemism for general elections is understandable but indefensible. It is understandable because he has amassed a lot of wealth from his farms and diamonds and has young children. He has not known of any job other than politics since he left teaching in Ghana in the 1960s. Mugabe has been a prime minister and a president enjoying free food, accommodation, air travel and transport for the past 30 years. Few people would do without such luxury. As a result the rule of law has been replaced by Zanu-pf law which puts his regime at a collision course with the EU. However Mugabe’s fear of regime change is indefensible, because the country’s constitution provides for change of government, although he has ensured that does not happen peacefully in his lifetime. Again, his and the EU’s paths cross on the issues of stolen elections, violence and rights abuses.

Contrary to claims by his sympathisers that the “smart sanctions are not smart enough” the EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell Ariccia clarified that “if the measures are not hurting the people on the list, there would have been less campaigns for their removal” (Zimonline, 28/10/10). Precisely.

What Mugabe does not want the people to know is that targeted sanctions are not aimed at ordinary people like the chiefs and headmen who this week fell victim to his anti-western rhetoric. The sanctions include a ban on weapon sales to the southern African country, something beyond a rural chief’s sphere of influence. Also Mugabe does not want people to know that other countries are being well run and progressing while Zimbabwe stalls or goes down the drain because of corruption, repression and paranoia about white farmers.

In order to ensure the “masses” do not get alternative news and information, the Central Intelligence Organisation and police are reportedly seizing donated portable radio sets from villagers in Murehwa’s Chitowa District a move that was started in Gweru where 862 radios were confiscated. Earlier on, there was Operation Dzikisai Madhishi (Bring down satellite dishes).

As long as people are abducted, raped, abused, harassed, terrorised, tortured or murdered for their political beliefs, targeted sanctions remain justified and deserve support of any right thinking Zimbabwean. In fact, the list of individuals banned from travel to the West should be updated as new farm invaders and torturers may have been omitted in the current 200. Furthermore if the Joint Operations Command or securocrats do not relent on violence, the travel ban should be tightened further.

Mugabe and his allies know very well the Shona saying that “kurumwa nechokuchera” (if you dig a hole, you get bitten e.g. by a snake). Its good that smart sanctions are really biting despite Zanu-pf propaganda. They must embrace and implement core democratic values of good political governance in Zimbabwe without hesitation, sooner rather than later.

Politically blackmailing opponents will only make the sanctions bite harder, fortunately. There is nothing illegal about targeted sanctions as touted by Jonathan Moyo because banning unwelcome visitors to your country is the sovereign right of any government including the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and the EU not forgetting Zimbabwe but only after democratic, free and fair, UN supervised elections of course!
Until there is real progress in Zimbabwe, targeted sanctions must stay. According to Harold Wilson, “The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery” (Quotegarden, 29/10/10)

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst, London, zimanalysis2009@gmail.com